Hey guys, this is my first post here as I am normally a lurker/reader. However, this season is the first time I've climbed a significant amount on Legend ladder with a homebrewed list, and I'd like to share the list because I think Spell Damage Mage is a relatively unexplored and unrefined archetype with lots of potential. I think the list I have still has lots of room for improvement despite the positive results I've seen with it, and I'd love to get more pilots playing and refining it. I started around 3k legend and climbed to ~800 with a 82-55 (60%) winrate. Here's the list, the writeup is below if you're interested in reading.
### SD Mage
# Class: Mage
# Format: Standard
# Year of the Gryphon
# 2x (1) Brain Freeze
# 2x (1) Devolving Missiles
# 2x (1) Lab Partner
# 2x (1) Primordial Studies
# 2x (1) Shooting Star
# 1x (2) Astromancer Solarian
# 2x (2) Cram Session
# 2x (2) Imprisoned Phoenix
# 2x (2) Incanter's Flow
# 2x (2) Runed Orb
# 1x (3) Arcane Intellect
# 2x (3) Combustion
# 2x (4) Fireball
# 2x (4) Refreshing Spring Water
# 1x (5) Aegwynn, the Guardian
# 1x (5) Ras Frostwhisper
# 1x (6) Jandice Barov
# 1x (7) Mask of C'Thun
# To use this deck, copy it to your clipboard and create a new deck in Hearthstone
To start the writeup off, let's talk about current, more popular SD Mage lists that popularized post-nerf. They are built around a large minion package that synergizes with and generates spells – Babbling Book, Wandmaker, Firebrand, etc. The new core Mage legendary, Aegwynn, the Guardian, is also an important part of these lists. However, unlike Spell Damage/Burn Mages of the past, the deck chooses to forego running Fireball to be able to run Kazakus, Golem Shaper as its only 4-drop. HSreplay has these lists sitting at just above 50% winrate at Legend over the past 3 days. ZachO and RidiculousHat discussed these lists in the most recent Data Reaper Podcast episode 39, saying that the archetype has potential, but they don't think cards like Babbling Book and decisions like cutting Fireball are the answer, and I agree with that assessment. With cards like Trampling Rhino and Crabrider in the meta as well as basically the entire deck of Rush Warrior creating a meta that's very board-swingy (for lack of a better term), I just don't think minion-based strategies are the answer in this meta.
So, I opted for a build much heavier on spells and much thinner on minions. The build is so much heavier on spells (22 spells, 8 minions) that I even opted to run cards commonly found in No Minion Mage lists – Incanter's Flow and Refreshing Spring Water. I also run Imprisoned Phoenix, a cornerstone of last expansion's Spell Damage Mage and an enabler of a win condition against control decks, which will be discussed in the following breakdown of some of my card choices:
- Removal package: Brain Freeze, Devolving Missiles, Shooting Star, Combustion, Runed Orb, Ras Frostwhisper
- Pretty standard Mage board control tools. Devolving Missiles wins games against Miracle Priests. I opted for Combustion over cards like Firebrand because while it does not develop a body and can sometimes feel awkward (and can be played around with smart positioning), it makes Flow and Spring Water more consistent. It's potentially suboptimal and replaceable.
- Spell damage minions: Lab Partner, Astromancer Solarian, Imprisoned Phoenix, Aegwynn, the Guardian
- Phoenix provides a win condition against passive decks with lots of healing like Priest and Warlock: double Phoenix into Fireball + Fireball + Runed Orb is a 26 damage combo, and often with Flow discounts and Aegwynn shenanigans, much more damage is possible. Outside of this application, it is just the swing turn enabler it's always been – Cram Session for a bunch of cards, clear the opponent's board with Shooting Star, develop a must-remove minion.
- Aegwynn might seem weird when there's only 7 other minions to draw in the deck, 2 of which are dormant for 2 turns, but she's just a solid, must-remove body that can enable her own mid-game swing turns and can be discounted with 0-mana Primordial Studies. Bonus points if she provides a boost in late-game burst by getting her effect on cheap minions like Lab Partner.
- Draw: Cram Session, 1x Arcane Intellect, Refreshing Spring Water
- Spring Water isn't always free draw 2 like it is in No Minion Mage since obviously we run minions, but it does do that quite often and 99% of times when it doesn't it's still 2 mana draw 2 at worst. Potential mana generating shenanigans when it's been discounted.
- Intellect is run basically for lack of better options. It doesn't feel great to play unless it's discounted, but does provide some draw consistency. There's probably a better option in this slot.
- Burn: Runed Orb, Fireball, 1x Mask of C'Thun, Ras Frostwhisper
- I originally ran only Runed Orbs and Fireballs as burn spells, but added 1x Mask for additional reach and potential removal in a pinch. Some matchups it feels clunky in my hand, others I wish I ran two copies. Not sure about that slot.
- Good cards: Incanter's Flow, Jandice Barov
- I basically always keep Flow in the mulligan and while I don't have actual stats for it, I feel like my winrate skyrockets when I'm able to play it early-mid. Can turn negative matchups positive. Making all of the deck's 1-cost spells free and the rest of the deck's spells cheaper just enables so much for the deck – earlier swing turns, smoother cycling, higher damage potential.
Here's a brief matchup summary, from my experience with a relatively low sample size:
- Positive: Face Hunter, No Minion Mage, Paladin, Priest, Rogue, Warlock
- I found it surprisingly easy to race Hunters. Reducing damage taken from their early game minions is key, as surviving in the mid game becomes easier as you deny their ability to stick minions with your removal while weaving in burn to the face because they don't heal. I was 7-5 in this matchup, so I might've just gotten lucky based on low sample size, but thus far it certainly feels like a pretty good matchup.
- Mages are another racey matchup. They often have more burn spells than you like Apexis Blast and a second Mask, but you have the advantage of consistent spell damage. I find myself being able to remove their 5-drops from Apexis Blast with a boosted Brain Freeze consistently, while they might have to spend Runed Orbs and Apexis Blasts to clear my beefier minions like Ras and Jandice. 14-6 against them.
- Paladin secrets became much more manageable after the secret weapon was nerfed. Devolving Missiles is really good in this matchup; gets rid of Librams, Ogremancers (most of the time), beefy buffs like Argent Braggart and Blessing of Authority, and can deny draw from Taelan. The rest of the matchup comes down to keeping their board clear so that you don't get blown out by Conviction, which normally isn't difficult with your breadth of removal. Weaving in your burn becomes more reliable as fewer Paladins are running Libram of Hope. 16-9.
- Priest and Warlock were 6-3 and 13-4 respectively. In both these matchups I default to the double Phoenix OTK plan. I am more likely to stick to it against Priest, since they have consistent access to on-demand healing, while I might spend some burn to kill Warlocks in 2-3 turns since they tap and Soul Fragments aren't on-demand heals. Illucia is technically a counter to this plan but I have yet to be Illucia'd. Maybe they just don't expect that I have enough burn to kill them.
- I was 8-2 against Rogue. I don't think Rogue is fully refined yet, so this could change, but clearing their boards and taking advantage of their inability to heal generally does the trick.
- Negative: Demon Hunter, Rush Warrior
- 5-10 against the DH class. Lifesteal DH just draws towards its OTK faster than you, while Aldrachi Warblades prevents you from killing them incrementally. You also don't put much board pressure on them, so they can cycle without sacrificing tempo. Midrange DH kind of presents the same problems. They can race you while staying healthy with Warblades.
- 10-14 against Warrior. They develop quickly and you don't do much in the early game, allowing them to handbuff freely and quickly put their minions out of range of a 3 damage Shooting Star or multi-minion clear with Combustion. All of their minions having Rush also means that your power cards like Ras or Phoenix almost never stay alive for more than 1 turn even following a swing turn.
That's pretty much all I have to say about the deck. Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes! If you discover any potential refinements, do let me know! I truly believe this archetype is fun, skill-testing, and full of promise in this meta.
- Got to legend again with my burn/combo mage
- Spell Damage Mage to Legend (with help from recent guide)
- Aeg Tempo Mage: P5 to legend
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